On this day in 1977, the miniseries “Roots” became the most watched show in TV history. The ABC Television Network probably didn’t quite understand what they had back then; even to this day, they probably still don’t get it. Based on Alex Haley’s book, Roots starred LaVar Burton in the unforgettable role as Kunta Kinte.
Currently, the History channel is throwing around the idea of remaking the legendary series, which proves that once again: they just don’t get it. It was a deal that involved buying the television rights from the estate of Alex Haley and the son of the original producer David Wolper. No longer protected by its original creators, does the Roots stand the test of time, or is a remake in order?
Yes, it stands the test of time. And no, it does not need a remake. The reason the Roots was the most watched show in TV history is because it was real, and not “reality TV”-real. It picked at the scab of the ugliness that was America, the spot that everyone knew was there, but didn’t want to see. The same lessons that Roots teaches years ago are still valid today in terms of respect, treatment, culture, and even the way people view African Americans. Although the newer generation won’t be able to identify with Kunta Kinte, there is still a spirit within the character that needs to be witnessed by young people so that they have a better understanding of their history.
As strange as it sounds, Roots was more appreciated back in the day than it is now. It wasn’t a flash-in-the-pan miniseries, as the last episode is still the most watched telecast of all time with 100 million viewers. Roots meant something when it aired, which is why Burton’s initial reaction to a remake was, “Why?”
It’s a fair question, since even Burton knows that the further the world goes, the less likely they will “get it.” Roots is still a valid teaching tool, not an entertainment medium. The miniseries was an important part of history, and should be witnessed in its original form. There are already too many things within the Black community that are being capitalized for cash benefit, which is exactly one of the lessons that Roots preaches against. Hopefully, people will stick to the real deal, and not let one of the classics of all time become another way to make rich people richer.